Your Guide to Mixed Reality Headsets Available in the U.S.

Johnny Reid
Dec 23, 2023

Few mixed reality headsets have made it to market and succeeded. Here's how the competition line up.

What is the best Mixed Reality Headset?

Best Mixed Reality Headset Overview By Device

Apple Vision Pro

Scheduled for a 2024 release, the Apple Vision Pro is already generating buzz. While details are still under wraps, expectations are high given Apple's track record in marrying design with functionality. Apple Vision Pro, set to be available early next year in the U.S., offers an immersive spatial computing experience, featuring an impressive 3D camera, a micro‑OLED display system with 23 million pixels for each eye, and dual-driver audio pods for Spatial Audio. This groundbreaking device also incorporates responsive eye tracking, a sophisticated sensor array, and a unique dual‑chip design, all working together to deliver an unprecedented spatial experience.

Microsoft's HoloLens 2

A frontrunner in the mixed reality space, the HoloLens 2 offers optical see-through displays, making it ideal for industrial applications where interaction with the surroundings is crucial. Its adaptability, even in construction sites with hardhats, makes it a top choice. The HoloLens 2 boasts impressive technical specifications, including see-through holographic lenses (waveguides) for its display. It features a resolution of 2k with 3:2 light engines, providing a holographic density of over 2.5k radiants (light points per radian), and employs eye-based rendering for optimized 3D eye position display.

Magic Leap 2

Building on its predecessor's foundation, the Magic Leap 2 aims to offer a more refined mixed reality experience. With improved field of view and enhanced spatial computing capabilities, it's set to make waves in the industry. With a field of view of up to 70 degrees, Magic Leap 2 allows you to capture a broader perspective, while its best-in-class image performance ensures crystal-clear visuals. This cutting-edge technology empowers users to explore the bigger picture and examine even the tiniest details with precision.

Meta Quest Pro

The Meta Quest Pro is designed for professional applications, offering high-resolution visuals and seamless integration with various software tools. Its ergonomic design ensures comfort during extended use. Experience a groundbreaking high-resolution mixed reality environment, seamlessly engaging with the virtual world while remaining fully present in your physical surroundings, all in vivid high-definition color.

Lenovo ThinkReality VRX

A new contender, the ThinkReality VRX boasts high-resolution pass-through capabilities, targeting the "Enterprise Metaverse." Powered by the Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ XR chipset, is an immersive, lightweight, slim-profile VR device with six-degrees-of-freedom (6DoF) capabilities, offering full-color, high-resolution pass-through for mixed reality applications, and it is complemented by a complete suite of end-to-end services to expedite organizations' success and ROI realization.

Varjo XR-4

The Varjo XR-4 is a high-end mixed reality headset featuring 4K displays, wide field of view, human-eye replication with autofocus, compatibility with advanced software, and various models for different industrial applications.

Varjo XR-3

The XR-3 headset stands out with its video-see-through display, offering high resolution and a fast refresh rate. Its eye-tracking technology provides deep insights, making it suitable for academic and clinical research.

Meta Quest 3

A new contender, the Meta Quest 3, promises enhanced immersion and improved hand tracking. Its wireless design and vast content library make it a strong competitor in the mixed reality arena.

Background on Mixed Reality Headsets

Countless have fallen before launch, several have flopped in the market, but a select few mixed reality headsets have made it to market and succeeded. Currently available and in use in the U.S. are the HoloLens 2, Magic Leap 1, and Varjo XR-3. We’ve broken down their features for you.

Mixed reality headset specs comparison

The HoloLens 2 and Magic Leap 1 use optical see-through displays, whereas the Varjo XR-3 employs video-see through display; instead of actually seeing your surroundings through glass, the Varjo XR-3 is a closed headset that uses frontal cameras to capture real-time video of your physical space. This also makes the headset VR compatible.

This difference alone makes for very different enterprise use cases between the Varjo XR-3 and its competitors. The closed display allows for higher resolution, photo-realistic imagery, and a larger field of view, making this headset more compatible with design and engineering tasks where detailed visualization is required. These qualities also make it more compatible with certain educational and clinical applications.

Its display method gives it the highest resolution and fastest refresh rate in its class, something that hasn’t been accomplished yet on headsets with optical see-through display methods, which have longer lag times. 5G will have a significant impact on the latency of these devices, allowing the rest to catch up with the Varjo headset.

The Varjo XR-3 is particularly well suited for academic, clinical, and commercial research because it has some of the fastest, most accurate eye-tracking technology available--providing deep insights into human behavior and emotion.

On the other hand, the HoloLens 2 and Magic Leap 1 lend themselves more to industrial mixed reality use cases where detailed visualization is less important, and interacting with your surroundings is more important. These headsets lend themselves to mixed reality enterprise training applications because they keep you grounded in your physical environment while providing information and visual assistance with augmented objects while you work.

The HoloLens 2 has also been adapted by Trimble for easier use in construction and industrial sites by attaching to hardhats.

These optical see-through mixed reality displays are connected to the future of consumer-facing mixed reality glasses, for which the video-see through headsets are not suitable. This connection to consumer-facing glasses makes for a seamless transition to them when they launch. 

The Varjo XR-3 and the Magic Leap 1 both require tethers to run, though the Magic Leap 1 can run off of a pocket computer for increased mobility. The HoloLens 2 does not require a tether--a major selling point.

In terms of sales, the HoloLens 2 is absolutely crushing the competition. Magic Leap is estimated to have sold around 6,000 headsets, and though we don’t have an estimate on the Varjo XR-3, it’s applications are more limited than its competitors. It’s unclear just how many HoloLenses have sold, but we know Microsoft sold at least 100,000 headsets to the U.S. military. We also know it is the only headset that can be adapted for use in industrial and construction sites.

We develop primarily on Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 because it is so widely used and most closely compatible with future mixed reality for consumer applications.

Lenovo has a new XR headset launching soon. The all new ThinkReality VRX features full color, high resolution pass through capabilities for mixed reality along with virtual reality capabilities. It is designed to be an end-to-end enterprise solution that will target the "Enterprise Metaverse". Pricing has yet to be released.

Apple Vision Pro Long Awaited Release

The Apple Vision Pro has heralded a new epoch in the domain of spatial computing, marking 2024 as a pivotal year in technological innovation. This avant-garde mixed reality headset is a symphony of meticulously engineered features that redefine the boundaries of digital interaction. With a pair of custom micro-OLED displays, the Vision Pro delivers an astonishing clarity, boasting more pixels than a 4K TV to each eye, creating a visual experience that is nothing short of breathtaking. The integration of advanced cameras and sensors allows for a seamless blend of digital content with physical space, enabling intuitive navigation through eye movements, hand gestures, and voice commands.

The architectural elegance of the Vision Pro is complemented by its technological prowess. Its enclosure, a singular piece of three-dimensionally formed laminated glass, merges gracefully with an aluminum alloy frame, creating a harmonious fusion of form and function. The headset’s sophisticated array of sensors and cameras work in concert to provide a clear understanding of the environment, enhancing user interaction and experience. Furthermore, the Vision Pro’s operating system, visionOS, is a monumental leap in spatial computing, enabling dynamic and immersive interactions, transforming the way we engage with digital content in our physical spaces.

Samsung Infinite Mixed Reality Headset

Word on the street is that Samsung's gearing up for a big reveal, possibly in late 2024. Their XR headset, which is in the works with Google and Qualcomm, was set for a launch this year but got pushed back due to Apple's Vision Pro making waves. This much-anticipated headset, dubbed "Infinite," might just steal the show at a major Samsung event, possibly sharing the stage with the latest Galaxy Fold and Flip models. Rumor has it, it could be running on Android, powered by Snapdragon, and might even flaunt those fancy OLEDoS displays from Samsung Display, just like Apple's headset.

Just last month, Samsung sealed a deal worth $218 million, snapping up eMagin, the American forerunner in Micro OLED technology. This acquisition is a big move in the tech world, especially with eMagin's cutting-edge OLED microdisplay technology, a key player in military, consumer, medical, and industrial sectors. They're the sole U.S. producer of these OLED displays, known for revolutionizing how we process digital information. Their groundbreaking Direct Patterning Technology is poised to set new standards in how we interact with data. From 2001, eMagin’s microdisplays have been integral in a slew of applications, ranging from AR/VR to military gear.

New Varjo XR-4 Mixed Reality Headset

The Varjo XR-4 mixed reality headset sets a new standard for professional-grade immersive experiences. It features unparalleled visual fidelity with 4K by 4K mini-LED displays, a vast 120° x 105° field of view with custom full-dome aspheric lenses, and industry-leading color accuracy. Designed to replicate human vision, the XR-4 uses dual 20-megapixel cameras with the world's first XR gaze-driven autofocus system, ensuring ultra-realistic visual interactions.

Meta's True AR Headset: Orion

The Orion prototype, slated for a 2024 demo, is a technological marvel incorporating microLED displays and silicon carbide waveguides, which are at the forefront of AR technology. The silicon carbide waveguides in Orion offer an expansive field of view of about 70° diagonal, far exceeding current AR headsets. However, due to their high cost and strict U.S. export controls, mass production poses significant challenges.

For the consumer product, planned for release around 2027, Meta is opting for LCoS displays and glass waveguides. This shift, while economically viable, comes with a trade-off: the field of view in the final product will be around 50° diagonal, similar to existing AR headsets like HoloLens 2 and Nreal. These changes reflect the complexities and compromises involved in transitioning AR technology from high-end prototypes to accessible consumer products. The journey of Meta's Orion prototype underscores the ongoing innovation and adaptation in the evolving world of augmented reality.